Beauty in Art – An Acquired Taste
Beauty is often defined as a subjective aspect of objects which makes these objects enjoyable to see. These objects may include natural landscapes, sunsets, beautiful humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with aesthetic sense and art, is the basis of aesthetics, among the major branches of science. Philosophers define beauty according to how it affects us. Some of them believe that beauty is subjective and independent while some others think that beauty depends on how it is perceived by the person viewing it.
Aesthetic appreciation of beauty has been in existence since time immemorial, as history has proven that cultures all over the world have used different means to depict or assess beauty. The word beauty, according to some historians, first appears in the thirteenth century in a manuscript written by Leonardo da Vinci. In this book, da Vinci indicated fourteen different aspects of physical beauty, which are collectively referred to as ‘the beauties of the face’. These beauties were divided into two categories: beauty for a specific function and beauty for a specific form.
According to the meaning of this text, beauty could be judged according to the visual enjoyment it causes. It can be intellectual or sensual. According to others, beauty can be judged by its conformity to the nature – i.e., it becomes a ‘natural’ when it is harmonious with nature. For example, beauty is beauty – i.e., it satisfies our basic needs and necessities of survival; beauty is harmony in form and colour or form and its variety; beauty is a form expressed in proportion and proportionate proportions. Thus, beauty can be seen or perceived in a multitude of forms and it is the ‘comprehensive’ quality of all these forms that make them beautiful.
Beauty in art – such as paintings, sculptures and other works of visual art – does not depend on the physical beauty of things, but on the aesthetic sense of things. The aesthetic sense is the faculty through which we judge beauty. We can say that aesthetic sense determines the beauty of a work or a visual presentation because it is something we always see in nature – like the beauty of a flower or tree, or a painting. We see the beauty in nature, when we look at it, feel it or experience it. Our aesthetic sense perceives the beauty of things as an independent and primary matter.
So beauty – that is, the beauty of things that we see, feel or experience – is not merely a matter of physicalism. It is not necessary that beauty should conform to the physical and biological character of things. We have many ways in which we can aesthetically pleasing things. But no one thing, or only one thing, can be considered beauty, for there are many things that beauty includes and individualizes as beauty.
What is beauty, then, in art? According to the definition given above, beauty is the independent and primary sense that we have of beauty. The definition of beauty in visual art consists essentially of the proportion of the figure to the whole body of the art object. In other words, the beauty of a flower or a painting does not consist in the size and number of the flowers or in the prettiness of the painting, but in the proportion of the parts to the whole object. Thus the subject matter of art can be seen as an artistic creation in itself, with all its own peculiarities.